ADS-L Digest - 10 Feb 2006 to 11 Feb 2006 (#2006-43)

James Landau jjjrlandau at EARTHLINK.NET
Sun Feb 12 19:09:52 UTC 2006

the reference is to the air-pressure gauge in the locomotive.

if you make what the writer refers to as a "sudden stop" (known to
railroaders as "dynamiting" (because it can derail a train) or "big-holing
the Westinghouse"), then you do so by dropping the air pressure (normally
somewhere around 100 psi) to zero.  That will certainly "wipe the gauge"
and I don't doubt that the gauge, being circular, was frequently referred
to as "the clock".

Anything other than an emergency stop is performed by REDUCING the air
pressure but not taking it all the way down to zero.  Sounds like this
writer was unaware that trains could slow down or stop by other than a full
emergency stop.

      - James A. Landau

> Date:    Sat, 11 Feb 2006 15:48:36 -0600
> From:    "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
> Subject: Re: "cleaned his clock" Antedating to 1946
>     The material sent by Sam Clements and Doug Wilson is very interesting.
>   Re: the 1929 example below, why would bringing a train to a sudden stop
by setting the air brakes be described in railroad lingo as "clean the
> or "wipe the gauge"?  What exactly is going on here?
> Gerald Cohen
> > ----------
> > From:         American Dialect Society on behalf of douglas at NB.NET
> > Sent:         Saturday, February 11, 2006 3:08 PM
> >
> > From N'archive:
> > _The Bookman_ 69(5), July 1929: p. 524:
> >
> > Grover Jones, "Railroad Lingo":
> >
> > <<Should the engineer "wipe the gauge" or "clean the clock", it means
that he has brought the train to a sudden stop by setting the air brakes.>>

The American Dialect Society -

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